Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Summer scholarships give a taste of career in research

Engaging in research during your university break might sound arduous but four enthusiastic recipients of Monash University Summer Research Scholarships have declared the experience inspiring. The scholarships aim to encourage high quality students interested in a career in research or academia.

The four students, who have just completed a three-week scholarship stint based at Moe with Monash Rural Health, found working as part of the Schools Study component of the Hazelwood Health Study was time well spent.

Working holiday: four Monash students took on a Summer Research Scholarship with the Hazelwood Health Study at the end of 2015 (l-r) Stephanie Van Boxtel, Josephine Slifirski, Cathy Saleta, Sally Robinson

The Schools Study is part of the ‘psychological impacts research stream’ of the Hazelwood Health Study. It is working closely with local schools, comparing Morwell schools which were most impacted by the Hazelwood mine fire smoke event with other schools in the Latrobe Valley. The Monash students assisted with interviewing Latrobe Valley students across years three and five in primary school and seven and nine at secondary school.

For Cathy Saleta, Josephine Slifirski, Stephanie Van Boxtel and Sally Robinson – four students from diverse study backgrounds - an opportunity to work with the Rural Health research team was what motivated them to apply for the Summer Scholarship.

Plans for further study confirmed

As she neared the end of her Bachelor of Community Welfare & Counselling, Cathy reflected on her growing interest in research which she attributed to the encouragement of a lecturer. The scholarship experience has convinced the Churchill student and mother of three to pursue her plan to do honours and a PhD with a focus on wellbeing and mental health.

Cathy commended Monash Rural Health on its approach to scholarship students, describing the induction and the training provided around qualitative interviewing as “fantastic”. As a local who experienced first-hand the impact of the Hazelwood Mine Fire, Cathy said she was particularly attracted to the Schools Study. “This is a real life project that we really hope will inform future events,” said Cathy, adding that navigating some of the complexities of data gathering had been a useful learning experience.

Exploring new ground: the research process

Next year, Josephine embarks on her honours year studying population health following her completion of the Bachelor of Biomedical Science. A self-described city girl, she had minimal understanding of the Hazelwood Mine Fire before participating in the Schools Study. “This field of rural health really interested me as it is something unfamiliar to me,” she said. “I wasn’t aware of how significant the mine fire impact was or how significant mines are as a part of the community.”

Steph, who has a dual interest in research and clinical work, next year embarks on her final year of the Bachelor of Heath Science and Bachelor of Social Work. The Longwarry-based student was aware of the impact of the mine fire on people she knew and was keen to work on the Schools Study.

For Sally Robinson, who has just completed her first year in Monash’s graduate-medical degree with Monash Rural Health in Churchill, the research scholarship satisfied her interest in exploring mental health and psychology qualitative research work after working on previous research projects with Monash and the Royal Children’s Hospital.

Give it a go

Asked what advice she would offer to other students who might consider applying for a summer or winter research scholarship, Sally said “If you are thinking about it, don’t be scared about what you do or don’t know beforehand…there is scope for you to speak up and the staff are very approachable so I would recommend anyone giving it a go.”

Sally’s fellow students agreed. As a student whose pathway has taken twists and turns while she has juggled family responsibilities, Cathy said “I think there are probably single parents like myself who might think this is not possible for them…I would say just do it, you would not regret it.”

Friday, 11 December 2015

Gippsland health workforce benefits from PERU

A student placement collaboration between Monash  Rural Health and Latrobe Community Health Service (LCHS) is seeing numerous students go on to become staff at LCHS, adding quality to the local health workforce.

A Memorandum of Understanding signed between the organisations has helped to grow student placement numbers at LCHS exponentially since it was signed in 2009.

In the past few years around 12 new employees have joined LCHS after having completed their placements through the innovative program known as PERU (Placements Education and Research Unit), including four in more recent months.

Workforce development: A collaboration between Latrobe Community Health Service and Monash Rural Health is helping recruit new health professionals. (Left-right) LCHS People, Learning & Culture Senior Manager Jacqueline Eddy, new LCHS employee (and Monash student) Venus Brammall and Monash Monash Rural Health Senior Lecturer Dr Susan Waller.
Monash Rural Health Senior Lecturer Dr Susan Waller said students, who come from multiple educational institutions, including Monash, undertook placements across a wide range of primary intervention allied health settings at LCHS, with their learning supported by Monash Rural Health during that time.

The success of PERU involves a team effort from Monash Rural Health and LCHS, is supported by the directors of both organisations and includes on-the-ground administration provided by LCHS.

Last year the program was moved to the People, Learning & Culture department of LCHS and Dr Waller said the move had strengthened links between staff and students. She said ongoing evaluation of the program had shown the program was effective and well regarded by students.

“We get good feedback from students who say their supervision was appropriate and helpful and they felt welcome at LCHS,” she said.

As part of its commitment to PERU, Monash Rural Health is involved in the student planning process, provides educational leadership, trains LCHS in the supervision of students, runs simulated clinics for students and, with the support of Monash Rural Health Research Fellow Dr Anske Robinson, increases and enhances research at LCHS.

LCHS Acting Senior Manger People, Learning & Culture Jacqueline Eddy said LCHS regarded PERU as a valuable recruitment stream, with large numbers of high quality students participating.

“As supervisors of these students we also experience a personal level of satisfaction,” Ms Eddy said. “We get to watch and support them in building their skills and applying those skills in a practical way in the workplace.”

New employee Venus Brammall said she had first-hand experience of the benefits provided by PERU to students at LCHS.

The Monash Bachelor of Business and Commerce student, who lives locally, spent six months in placement at LCHS this year and this month has taken on a role within People, Learning and Culture at the organisation.

“I felt really well supported and it helped to grow my skills in Human Resources,” she said, adding that LCHS had been flexible in accommodating her ongoing study commitments within her new position.

“PERU can certainly support students who come through the corporate area of LCHS,” Dr Waller said.

Students hosted by LCHS have more recently gone to become staff working across drug and alcohol treatment services, podiatry, counselling, human resources and occupational therapy.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Developing the "self-improving healthcare system"

Dr Cameron Knott
While he was an intensive care trainee, Dr Cameron Knott was a member of a team whose patient died as the result of a medical intervention. The experience led him to reflect* on the need for, not only self-improvement, but also developing skills around teams behaviour.

An intensive care and organ donation specialist with Austin Health and intensive care specialist at Bendigo Health, Dr Knott is also now the academic lead for the SRH Bendigo Clinical Skills and Simulation Centre. Clinical simulation-based education is an important aspect of his ongoing work on developing the “self-improving healthcare system”.

“I didn’t like the way medicine was being taught effectively by humiliation,” he said. “By contrast, the simulation-based approach is supportive. Rather than being classroom based, it’s learning by doing. It is also a safe place that gives learners the space to reflect on what they do and how to do it better.”

As well as fostering a personal culture of self-improvement, the experiential approach of simulation-based education enables the teaching of team behaviour. “I want to reduce the silo effect of education,” Dr Knott said. “We teach medical students using simulation-based education, but we have the students play the role of nursing staff or pharmacist. We need to allow them to be coached by those specialist practitioners.”

Such real world coaching would contribute to the work readiness of graduates, another of Dr Knott’s concerns. “There can be a gap between what graduates think they’ll be doing and what they actually end up doing,” he said. Dr Knott is working to reduce that gap through simulation-based education.

* C Knott, A personal experience on staff experiences after critical incidents, MJA, 2014; 201(9), 550-551. doi: 10.5694/mja14.00681

Monday, 7 December 2015

New staff bring years of experience to Sale

Two new staff have been appointed academic coordinators for medical students based in Sale.

Prue Berry is the new Year 4C coordinator and Casey Stubbs the Year 3B coordinator. Prue, from Marra, and Casey, from Sale, have long careers in nursing and education.

Prue Berry (left) and Casey Stubbs (right) bring many years' experience to their new roles.

Prue has worked for Central Gippsland Health Service in Sale for the last 16 years, initially as a critical care nurse and during the last seven years as a clinical educator. She is keen to expose medical students to the advantages of working in rural general practice and rural hospitals.

Both Prue and Casey believe their careers as nurses will bring valuable knowledge to their roles.

“One of the major strengths of nurses is their communication skills, and an enormous part of nursing and medicine centres around good communication,” Prue added.

Casey spent some years as an intensive care nurse at the Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne before taking up a position over three years ago as a nurse educator at Latrobe Regional Hospital in Traralgon. “After working in education, I realised that was what I really wanted to do in my career,” Casey said. “I have found my place in education.” Casey’s aim is to help medical students feel confident and comfortable before actually entering the workplace. She believes her nursing background will enhance her role.

Prue will oversee eight Year 4C students who will spend the academic year in Sale and surrounding towns. This rotation includes general practice, children’s health (paediatrics), women’s health (obstetrics and gynaecology) and mental health.

Casey will have eight Year 3B students next year, who will spend most of their time in the medical and surgical wards at Central Gippsland Health Service with specialty sessions in the emergency department and operating theatres. Students will also rotate to Bairnsdale Regional Health Service on a roster basis for medical and surgical experience.